Eight ships from Indian Navy, Coast Guard avert environmental disaster; douse fire on oil vessel


Team Udayavani, Sep 12, 2020, 1:02 PM IST

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New Delhi: In a massive effort, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard in association with Sri Lankan Navy averted a major environmental disaster when they put out a fire onboard a fully laden Indian Oil Corp (IOC) chartered supertanker, saving the entire cargo and preventing an oil spill.

“This is a story of great coordination and superb multi-disciplinary efforts. Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy alongside Sri Lankan Navy have successfully put out the fire on New Diamond vessel,” said Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, chairman of Indian Oil Corp (IOC).

The New Diamond — a 20-year old very large crude carrier (VLCC) controlled by New Shipping — was carrying around 2,70,000 tonnes of Kuwaiti crude from Mina-Al-Ahmadi to Paradip in Odisha when it caught fire in the engine room early on September 3, close to 38 nautical miles off Sri Lanka”s east coast.

“The fire has been doused and the 2 million barrels (2,70,000 tonnes) crude cargo is safe,” he said. “It was a tremendous effort by Indian and Sri Lankan navies and coast guards which pressed multiple ships and aircraft into service.”

A major ecological disaster was in the offing if the cargo had caught fire or the oil spilled into the sea.

Of the 22 personnel on board, 21 were rescued, he said.

“The entire cargo was saved,” he said. “Imagine the environmental disaster that would have happened if the two million barrels of crude oil on the ship would have caught fire or spilled into the sea”.

The coordinated fire-fighting and rescue effort helped avert a Mauritius-like disaster where a Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean Island on July 25 and began spilling oil August 6.

“Thankfully, the cargo of crude oil is intact. We have averted an environmental disaster,” he said.

Vaidya said a salvage team is now inspecting the ship for the damage and would decide on the future course of action including towing the vessel to a location for the transfer of crude oil to another ship for onward movement to Paradip.

Panama-flagged vessel MT New Diamond was loaded with 2,70,000 tonnes (2 million barrels) of Kuwaiti crude at Mina-Al-Ahmadi in Kuwait and was headed to Paradip.

The vessel is owned by Proto Emporios Shipping Inc, Liberia while the technical and commercial operator is New Shipping Ltd of Greece.

The vessel caught fire when it was at a distance of 38 nautical miles off the Sangaman Kanda Point.

The Sri Lankan Navy sought the assistance of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) which immediately deployed ships Shaurya, Sarang and Sujoy and a Dorner aircraft for fire-fighting.

On September 4, the mission was also joined by Indian Navy ships, Sahyadri and Shakti, and two Sri Lankan naval vessels. The mission was augmented by two tugs, Rawana and wasamba, from Hambantota port and Alp Winger, an anchor handling/fire-fighting tug.

The fire was completely doused by night of September 8, he said.

Mid-way through the mission, a two-metre crack was observed near the engine room. ICG vessels Ameya and Abheek were deployed, carrying oil spill dispersant chemicals and foam.

New Diamond was first towed away from the Lankan shore and the fire was doused using a combination of foam and fire-extinguisher powder.

“Once the salvage team gives a go-ahead, a ship-to-ship transfer of crude oil will happen and the cargo will then head for Paradip for final discharge,” he added.

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